It’s 50 Years Since The Six Day War Began

Posted on Mon 06/05/2017 by

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Breakfast will never be the same again!

By Anton Lang ~

Fifty years ago this morning, on the 5th June 1967 at 7.45AM, what is now known as The Six Day War began, when the relatively tiny and hopelessly outnumbered Nation of Israel fought against the combined might of five major ‘Arab’ Countries, who were backed up by another eight Countries who were sympathetic to the ‘Arab’ cause. The main country Israel fought was Egypt.

This war began precisely at that time with perhaps the single most audacious air strike in the history of aerial combat.

Israeli Air Force Mirage lllCJ Fighter Aircraft, similar to those which fought during The Six Day War.

Me, well I didn’t know all that much about it, and other than chatter, and hearing about it on the occasional news media broadcast, I probably wouldn’t have even known any more than what I heard from those sources, because I was only 16 years old, and it was all over so quickly, and at that time I certainly didn’t know about that air strike which started it, something I only learned about five years later.

However, why I did know a little about it was that this year, 1967, was my first year in the Royal Australian Air Force, (RAAF) and before any of you wonder how I was in the Air Force at the tender age of only 16, I joined up as a Trades Apprentice, and there were 70 of us young teenagers on that Trade Course.

We were doing that trade training at the RMIT (Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology) and the 70 of us were split into class sizes of around 25 or so of us. As well as us young Air Force men, we were joined by civilians also doing trade training as well, and each class had about eight or so of these civilians. In our class, two of those civilians were Australian young men of Israeli parentage, now settled in Australia, and that’s why I knew about this Six Day War, right from the day it first started. These two Australian guys of Israeli extraction were both two years older than all of us were, and they were both 18 years old. They were animatedly talking about it all the time it was happening. The pair of them actually visited the Melbourne offices of the Israeli Embassy to sign up to go and fight for their Mother Country, but it was all over before anything could even be initiated here in Australia for them. However, they did continue with that enlistment program, and a couple of Months later, both of them went back to Israel, joining the Air Force in that Country.

We promptly forgot about them and went on with our Trade Training. After I finally got my Trade as an aircraft electrician, and served at a couple of other aircraft Squadrons, I was posted to 76 Squadron, and they had Mirage fighter aircraft, perhaps every Air Force guys dream posting, the pointy end, with the prestigious fighter aircraft. This was five years after that Six Day War, something we had all totally forgotten about here in Australia. The fighter that the RAAF was using at the time, was the Mirage lllO, an Australian variant of the same aircraft shown in the above image, a single engined, delta wing Interceptor, and there’s more about that aircraft in the first of the links below, with an image of one of those 76 Squadron fighters, and an explanation about that magnificent fighter airplane.

Our Squadron was sent away on Deployment at the Darwin Air Base in mid to late 1972. Deployments to other bases were sought after in those days, and even though the work was intense, we all just loved it. The hard work was for seven days a week, mostly day and night, and the night flying operations were perhaps the most intense of all, doing all that work in the dark with just a torch to see by as you worked.

Part of that four week Deployment were what is called an ADEX, (Airfield Defence Exercise) and these were perhaps the most intense work of all, and they would sometimes go for 36 consecutive hours, working flat out on Operations all through the night. We napped when we could, and all the daily meals were brought to us at work, and we ate between tasks. During these ADEX Operations, our Squadron was tasked with defending the Darwin Air Base from opposing forces, in this case ‘Friendlies’, sometimes the USAF, sometimes the USN, and sometimes the RAF from the UK, and they were the ‘attacking’ forces for the purpose of the exercise.

There was never any warning (naturally) as to when they would turn up, so we had to be in a constant state of readiness. While all the major work was carried out in the flight lines, aircraft always had to be ready to take off at a moment’s notice, the typical ‘scramble’ you may recall from movies.

To that end a group of four aircraft had to be ready for just that purpose. They would start up in the flight lines and taxi out to a platform alongside, and at the far end of the runway itself. There, with engines still running, they would have all external power connected so all of the aircraft systems could still operate as normal, and once that was done, they would shut down the jet turbine engine, and all the aircraft systems would still operate normally from that external power source. Each aircraft would have a ground crew of two, so there were eight of us in all, and a junior NCO as supervisor. We would all then wait for the message of ‘incoming’. The pilots would flash their landing lights as a signal and, as ground crew, we would then spring into action. The engine would start, we would disconnect the power, and do a couple of preliminary checks, and the pilots would then roll out and start their take off roll, already now in that readiness position at the end of the runway. With practice, we could get this time from signal to roll out down to 30 seconds, sometimes even less. Then we, as ground crew would make ready for the next four aircraft to roll into the places just vacated by the other four, now gone. You would spend an hour, sometimes two, out on that platform, before a new crew would come and replace you, so everyone got a turn at doing it. The work was intense, but we loved it, because this is what you train for, to be ready if the occasion ever arises when you have to put all that training to practice. That was for 36 hours straight during these ADEX operations.

On Friday afternoons, all operations ceased at just after Midday. On those Friday afternoons, we would all gather together as a full Squadron, and have a barbecue and some beers for three or four hours, just to wind down for a few hours. These times were always anticipated, because we got to relax and wind down. It was also the only time we ever got together with those fighter pilots. They were always perceived as somewhat special, aloof, and removed from the rest of us, as is their nature, and also the nature of what they have to do. Actually, they also loved these times to wind down and mix with us from the trades part of the Squadron, and what we found was that they were just normal guys like we were. They loved to pick our brains on the technical aspects of the aircraft, and we loved to hear what they did as pilots.

One time, one of the guys asked the pilots how they knew about aerial combat, because these aircraft had never actually been in combat.

One of the pilots then proceeded to tell us all about how this same aircraft had indeed been in a combat situation during that Six Day War, which some of us only vaguely remembered, me amongst them, because of what happened during my earlier trade training.

That pilot then explained what had happened during that first air strike I mentioned at the top of this Post. That is more fully explained in the second of the links below, but I’ll mention some of the basics again here.

That operation was called Operation Moked, the Israeli word for Focus.

Before this conflict started, Israel was hopelessly outnumbered, both in troops on the ground, and also in combat aircraft, at almost four aircraft to one, and it was perceived that there was nothing that Israel could actually do about it because they were so hopelessly outnumbered and surrounded by those other Countries, all of whom hated Israel.

Operation Moked saw all but 12 of Israel’s 180 combat aircraft take off and start this audacious operation. They flew at around 500 to 600MPH barely 60 feet above the ground, well below Radar and also well below where any SAM’s could get them, They arrived over the ten designated Egyptian air bases at precisely 7.30AM Local. (8.30AM Egypt time) Combat thinking at that time was a carry over from the Second World War, when virtually all major air strikes were carried out just as Dawn was breaking, so the Egyptians, well aware of that were ready at Dawn. When no attack came, they just wound down operations, and everyone went off to Breakfast.

The attacking Israeli air force popped up over their air base targets, cratered the runways with their own specifically designed cratering rockets, and then bombed and strafed all the aircraft on the ground, all totally unprepared for what was now happening. They came in three waves over that first 80 minutes, as each wave attacked each of their designated bases. The Egyptian air force was totally wiped out ….. on the ground. Only three MIGs got airborne and they were shot down. The Israeli air force lost only six aircraft in that whole first wave, mainly from ground fire.

They all then returned to their bases in Israel, turned around and took off again. All up there were four major attacks during that first day, three of them prior to lunch in fact.To say that they ‘turned around’ those aircraft quickly after landing and prior to the next wave taking off is an understatement, as an aircraft was turned around, serviced by all those aircraft trades, six of them in all, totally refuelled and re-armed, all of that being done in eight minutes, a truly astonishing time. They had very few things wrong with the aircraft and they maintained a more than 90% operational readiness for that whole first day, also astonishing. The Israeli Air Force had been relentlessly practicing this ground crews operations for Months prior to the day of the attack, so everything went smoothly now that everything depended on it.

The air forces of those five ‘Arab’ Countries were all wiped out on the ground, and Israel had total and utter air superiority for the remainder of what became an absolute rout, and the whole ‘shooting match’ was over in six days, all of it slated down to the absolute success of this air strike. There was some aerial combat, mainly on that first day. All up, across the whole six days, the Israeli air force lost 46 aircraft during those 6 days, mainly to ground fire, and while that may seem like a lot, keep in mind that they totally destroyed around 20 air bases in those Countries, and also destroyed more than 450 to 500 combat aircraft from those five major Countries, most of them from Egypt. Those air bases had to be totally reconstructed from scratch all over again, as did all of the cratered runways.

Our own Australian Mirage fighter pilots got a lot of their combat knowledge from those Israeli pilots, from information gleaned on air to air combat, and also on the critical air to ground combat operations.

As our own 76 Squadron pilot told us all about this, we all sat, rapt, and listening intently.

The last thing he said was that perhaps now we could see why breakfast was always delivered to our Squadron at our flight lines, and we ate during operations when we could.

This Six Day War hinged totally around the success of this one audacious air strike. This was something that could only ever happen once, the first time it had been conceived and used, as from that day forward, every air force would be in a state of readiness all the time, with no stopping just to go off and have breakfast.

In August of 2008, I wrote a three part series about this Six Day War, and the links below will take you to each of those individual Posts with a further link to some further information about Operation Moked itself. Most of the above information is shown at those links.

It’s still hard to believe all this is now 50 years ago.

The Six Day War (Part One) A personal background in the lead up and some information on the Mirage fighter aircraft.

The Six Day War (Part Two) More on that introduction and Operation Moked

The Six Day War (Part Three) Information on what came after that war, aspects of the fighter aircraft that developed from this one used so effectively, and the incredible story behind that aircraft’s development.

Operation Moked Further details on that actual operation itself.

Anton Lang uses the screen name of TonyfromOz, and he writes at this site, PA Pundits International on topics related to electrical power generation, from all sources, concentrating mainly on Renewable Power, and how the two most favoured methods of renewable power generation, Wind Power and all versions of Solar Power, fail comprehensively to deliver levels of power required to replace traditional power generation. His Bio is at this link.

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